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After 22 years at It’s Only Natural (ION) Restaurant, its masterful head chef sought new challenges, so he and his wife opened G-Zen, initially a sort of Neo-ION, as half its menu was the same, but with new and more imaginative though sometimes pretentious names. What could have been better than ION? Two ION’s!

Yet who can refrain from making comparisons? (Obviously not I). Many new dishes do distinguish it from ION, especially in recent years. For instance one entree here is all raw, with many side dishes raw too. Decor and dinnerware are more elegant and opulent than at hippie artsy ION. (You decide which better suits your personality.) I do prefer the “vibes” (yeah man, am a hippie) of ethnically-diverse and middle-class Middletown to that of predominantly Caucasian and affluent New-Haven-bedroom-community Branford, and prefer the trip to Middletown on scenic and lightly traveled Route 9 rather than on industrialized and truck-choked and traffic-jammed Interstate 95.

The food at G-Zen is outstanding, and it is primarily for the food that one chooses any restaurant. Every entrée is flavorful and often unique, if not invented by the masterful chef then surely perfected by him. The portions sometimes are small, but the nutritional standards always are high. So are the prices, especially of the desserts. In 2015, it cost $15 for a sliver. Add tax and tip, and that was $20, and remember, for a mere sliver. Clearly its intended clientele is the affluent bourgeoisie, a social class from which I am excluded.

Still, the lavish desserts and all the other prohibitively priced foods deserve the accolades bestowed upon it by others: it is delicious, nutritious, nearly wholly wholesome, mostly organic, much of it raw, beautifully presented, graciously hosted, and totally vegan. This very well may be vegan heaven!

Just ignore all the self-ingratiating hype on its website and DeFacebook page and menu, which should be taken with a grain of Himalayan pink salt. This is not the best veg restaurant in the entire Milky Way, which its tiresome hyperbole tries to bludgeon you into believing. This is the best veg restaurant in Connecticut, but CT is the third smallest state and its entire population is one-third that of just NYC’s. And NYC hosts several comparable restaurants. Fortunately NYC is far away, and even more fortunately G-Zen is close at hand.

G-Zen, no one loves your food because of all your hype. Rather, we love your food despite your hype.

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